For its return to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague after a year away, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade brought in six reinforcements, but mostly familiar faces, with half of them having played with the club in the past. Fan-favorite guard Charles Jenkins returns for his third stint with Zvezda after two seasons with Khimki Moscow Region, while center Ognjen Kuzmic returns after two years with Real Madrid, which he helped win the 2018 EuroLeague title. Nikola Jovanovic, another big man, returns after spending a year on-loan with Dolomiti Energia Trento. Zvezda also acquired a pair of veterans who need little introduction to EuroLeague fans: forwards James Gist and Derrick Brown. The only competition newcomer arriving to the Serbian capital is a new playmaker, veteran guard Lorenzo Brown.
The keys to Zvezda's offense will be in the hands of two veteran guards who are set to make their competition debuts. While starting role is meant for Lorenzo Brown, a point guard who is no stranger to scoring, Filip Covic will be in the back-up role after taking on a big workload, and delivering, in domestic competitions late last season. Zvezda's all-time record holder in games played, Branko Lazic, remains the defensive ace that the team has relied on for years, and Jenkins brings even more defense and experience, along with reliable outside shooting. However, when in need of buckets, Zvezda will likely turn to its sharpshooter and second-best scorer last season, Billy Baron, while Dejan Davidovac – a point guard in a 2.02-meter frame – is an x-factor who coach Milan Tomic loves to use. Ognjen Dobric has loads of energy and toughness, and together with Brown, Lazic and Jenkins he will allow Zvezda to have one of the EuroLeague's more fearsome and more aggressive perimeter defenses. Swingman Nemanja Nenadic might have limited opportunities in his EuroLeague debut season.
Zvezda has created plenty of depth in its frontcourt. Versatile veteran forward Derrick Brown has been a glue guy at his previous stops, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Anadolu Efes Istanbul, with his unique blend of scoring abilities, athleticism and court vision. At 32 years of age, he is also younger than his fellow forwards: 35-year old three-time EuroLeague champion Stratos Perperoglou; a 34-year old EuroLeague debutant Mouhammad Faye; and long-time Panathinaikos OPAP Athens power forward James Gist, who will soon turn 33. The young gun, Borisa Simanic, is a former ANGT Finals MVP and an athletic big man who completes this highlight-reel power forward lineup that will allow Zvezda to play very big on any night. This team's size does not stop there, however, as coach Tomic will have centers Kuzmic (2.13 meters), Jovanovic (2.11 meters) and EuroLeague rookie Michael Ojo (2.16 meters), as well, making Zvezda arguably the tallest team in the competition.
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Billy Baron was a lot more than just a sharpshooter for Zvezda last season. He did make a team-high 41 three-pointers in the 7DAYS EuroCup on an impressive 49.4% three-point shooting, but he went on to do even better things when Zvezda was playing for trophies domestically. First, Baron was the MVP of the Adriatic League finals, which earned Zvezda's ticket to the EuroLeague. Then, he scored a game-winning title-clinching basket in the Serbian League playoffs, prompting the club to extend his contract during the celebrations on the same night of that last game of the season. Set to make his EuroLeague debut, Baron is now poised to showcase his sweet shooting as well as his scoring abilities to help carry Zvezda against the best competition on the continent.
No team is loaded with size like Zvezda this season, meaning that a traditionally athletic team that loves to run in transition might have a chance to do just that more than ever. Perimeter defense with the likes of Lorenzo Brown, Lazic, Jenkins and Dobric, and big men who thrive in running the break – like Derrick Brown, Gist or Simanic – will allow Zvezda to do plenty of what the team likes so much. What's different about this Zvezda team is its experience, which this squad has both in age of its players, but also in their longevity in the EuroLeague. Along with its home court, which is arguably one of the toughest on the planet, Zvezda surely intends to make this a memorable season for its army of super-loyal fans.